Enjoy Ancient Japan with Modern-day Comfort

Japanese culture has a quiet elegance and understated grace that captures anyone it touches. Though it is easy to appreciate, the culture is much more difficult to experience first hand. These aren’t a people who over-share, and the typical two-week vacation isn’t enough time to get into their inner circle. Unless, of course, you stay at the Kaya Villa’s thatched cottage.

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The cottage is located in the quaint village of Miyama, which provides a needed contrast to the modern cities of Japan. Rice paddies and thick forests cover the mountains that surround this community. And while the amenities are very modern, the cottage’s story is anything but.

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Thatched roof history dates back 5,000 years and is congruent with the history of Japan itself. But now that Japan is enthusiastically welcoming outside influence, and young people flood into cities, the villages and farms that fed Japan are dwindling along with their way of life. This is the old way of life, the way of tea ceremonies, hidden shrines, farming, and yes, thatched roof villages. The core of this way of life is living off the land, in harmony with the land, in a sustainable and clean way. As I listened to the Kaya Villa team discuss the ancient way’s dedication to sustainable living, it started to sound shockingly familiar. You only need to search #CleanLiving to know this old way is a very modern ideal.

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But what is most incredible is that something so rich in history and morality could feel so good. The cottages are warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and their unobtrusive and organic structure means you’re experiencing nature without all the hassle. The cottage walls are built of cedar, which exude a heavenly scent you could swim in. And the cedar bathtub doesn’t hurt either. As you lay in bed, listen to the nighttime chorus literally sing you to sleep, breath in the rich cedar smell, and commend yourself on your #CleanLiving.

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If you can tear yourself away from the cottage, the community of Miyama will welcome you and, even better, share their world with you. A bike ride is the first step, and as every gardener in town bows, smiles, and waves at you, it’s ok to feel like you’re part of the family. Walk up to the village shrine, take a picnic by the river, or even a swim in the perfectly clear water. Your time wouldn’t be complete without a cooking class from Sachiko and Toyoko, two ladies who will make you want to move to Miyama and be adopted by them (if not for their warm hearts, then for their amazing cooking!). Work off the fabulous Japanese cuisine with an easy hike through the Japanese forest, and learn nature’s secrets from a local guide. But leave time for yoga with Junko Saito, the renowned Japanese instructor who is as ruthless as she is gentle. In the evening, watch the sunset over the rice paddies from the cottage’s porch while you grill up a well-deserved dinner of delicious local produce.

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The Kaya Villa offers a connection to the Japanese culture about which many will only read and dream. This connection isn’t just a glimpse, but an immersion, and with a comfort and welcome to make you wonder if you didn’t once live here in a past life. You’ll learn to pace your current life a beat slower, smile to strangers a bit kinder, and the quiet grace which exudes from the Japanese will imprint itself on your heart forever.

Blakely Downs

Blakely left her job as an advertising producer in New York to turn professional traveler with her husband. As they explore, learn, give, and get lost, thrilled, and changed through distant lands, she recounts it all on her travel blog and enables couch travelers everywhere. She now contributes to Glamping.com as a guest writer.

3 Most Requested Activities at Paws Up

Take a wild guess at the three most requested activities at The Resort at Paws Up. If you picked fly-fishing, horseback riding, and ATV trail rides, then you are correct—and you should reward yourself with one of the above! These three activities in particular are extremely popular due to the multiple offerings, times, and uniqueness that come from the setting of the resort. Activities Director Mark Houseman says, “Their popularity stems from the fact that these three activities offer a great representation of the Montana way of life. From the world-class fishing to the wide-open exploration of our state, they allow our guests a way to escape busy city life and marvel at the beauty of the Montana landscape. Personally, my favorite is the three-hour ATV tour, as you get to drive deep into the back part of the property, enjoy the thrill of two hill climbs, snap a photo at the best picture spot at Lookout Rock and experience the ever-changing landscape that you experience along the route.”

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For our ATV trail rides, guests can choose from a one and a half-, three-, or five-hour excursion. For the first two options, guests explore the woods, tackle hill climbs, take in the picturesque scenery from Lookout Rock and view the beautiful Blackfoot river. On the five-hour ride, guests will explore the woods, and then take the ATVs off-property to Elevation Peak (about 7,000 feet). Once they have completed this climb on the ATVs, guests will hop off for a hike to the top. From there, views are breathtaking, and guests will experience the grandeur that earned Montana its Big Sky State nickname. Post-hike, adventurers head to Garnet, an abandoned-but-intact ghost town where guests will travel back to the 1800s as they check out the saloon, hotel, general store and so much more. Lunch is provided before driving back to the resort.

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Horses are iconic to Montana, and riding is probably the first activity that crosses the mind when thinking of Montana. The Resort at Paw Up houses 40 horses on-property for all of our equestrian activities. Whether you are have never been in a saddle before or are a riding expert, Paws Up has something for every ability with one-, two- or three-hour trail rides, cattle drives, lessons and more. The Resort’s wrangler will pair guests with a four-legged friend that will be the perfect match for exploring more than 100 miles of wilderness trails. You will pass towering ponderosa pines, whose size and beauty are surpassed only by the views of the distant mountain ranges of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

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This year, there are several additions to the equestrian program, including a new evening ride that takes you past our quaint line shack (where you will enjoy a glass of wine or a cold beer) to the top of Scout’s Point to take in a signature Montana sunset. Or enjoy a lunch ride to a gorgeous spot in the shade where guests indulge in a Paws Up-style picnic. Kids can participate in lessons at the Saddle Club arena, complete with games, obstacle courses and more, and adult beginners can join instructional group trail rides. For advanced riders, the all-new, three-hour trail ride allows equine enthusiasts to cover terrain that no Paws Up guests have ever traversed. For an authentic taste of Western ranch life, participate in a cattle drive where novice and advanced riders alike saddle up with seasoned ranch hands and drive a herd of cattle across the majestic rolling pastures of the Resort property.

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Montana is known for fly-fishing, and Paws Up hosts 10 miles of the Blackfoot River—arguably one of the most famous rivers in which to fly-fish, thanks to the movie “A River Runs Through It.” This gorgeous river flows right through our property, where all of our guided excursions are strictly for fly-fishing. Our guides have fished the surrounding rivers for years and will help you find the best trout fishing holes. At Paws Up, we offer spin rods for guests who are more comfortable with these rods, but only for independent fishing.

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Also near the resort is the Missouri River—one of the best hot spots for fly-fishing and a treasure trove for trout. This massive river travels approximately 700 miles along the entire state of Montana.

Other options include Bitterroot River—a dry-fly paradise that is famous for 95 percent dry flies and great hatches, which start in mid-March and extend well into October—and the Clark Fork River, the largest river by volume in the state and also one of the longest. The Clark Fork is approximately 310 miles long and is close to the resort. The best fishing on the Clark Fork is found between its origin and the confluence with the Flathead River near Paradise.

Alison Lewis is a freelance travel and food journalist who has worked with Travel & Leisure, Coastal Living, USA Today, Fitness, Southern Living, Islands Magazine, Cooking Light, Better Homes & Gardens, Clean Eating and Oxygen. She is also the Founder and Publisher of Healthy Travel magazine and author of three internationally published cookbooks.

North America’s Most Luxurious Glamping Sites

Glamping can be such a distant cousin to camping — some sites are so sumptuous, so lavish, that the word camping would never even come to mind. We put together a list for you of some of the most luxurious glamping sites in North America.

The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch

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The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch is a luxury boutique guest ranch in Wyoming on 30,000 private acres. From log-hewn buildings to stone fireplaces to plenty of outdoor activities, this ranch makes every guest feel at home. Book a cozy lodge guestroom or private cabin with stunning views of Rocky Mountain wilderness. It’s a ranch vacation like none other.

Fogo Island Inn

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Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland, Canada is a study in contrasts. This minimalist and modern-designed sanctuary can be found in a remote 18th-century fishing village off of Newfoundland’s rugged northern coast that almost seems removed from the modern world. A local architect designed it as a modern take on traditional Atlantic Canadian architecture. While in a rustic setting, luxury is in full effect with fine linens, inventive local cuisine, a wood fired sauna, a cinema and lots of other touches. Guests are encouraged to immerse in the local culture by foraging for wild berries, fishing for mackerel and listening to the local musicians.

Gateway Canyons Resort and Spa

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Founded by the creator of the Discovery Channel, Gateway Canyons resort was created to nourish guests’ curiosity through the art of discovery and adventure in a wonderful setting.

It’s located in the Red Rock Canyons of western Colorado, just one hour southwest of Grand Junction. The 58-room luxury resort offers horseback riding, hiking, fishing, biking, disc golf, rafting, kayaking, jeep tours and more. Stay in your own casita with a king-sized bed, five-point master bath with outdoor garden shower, walk-in closet, and fireplace or you can stay in one of two lodges. And of course, no matter where you sleep, there are stunning views in every direction.

Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort

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Siwash Lake is an all-inclusive resort on a dude ranch in British Columbia. But don’t think dusty and dirty, this is a first-class, private hideaway surrounded by 80,000 acres of pristine Canadian rangeland. Ranking among North America’s finest, this place is legendary for horseback riding, wilderness adventures, pasture-to-plate cuisine, and lavish safari-inspired tents.

The Ladder Ranch

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The Ladder Ranch offers one of the most exclusive and unparalleled vacations you will ever experience. Purchased by Ted Turner in 1992, this exclusive property is located in south central New Mexico and covers an enormous 156,439 acres. Turner’s five-bedroom, three bathroom Ladder Ranch house exudes “authentic” Southwest character, complete with his personal touches, representative of countless experiences and adventures. You’ll be amazed at the incredibly diverse and spectacular wildlife (bison, elk, deer, antelope, mountain lions, bears) and the magnificent mix of ecosystems, ranging from desert grasslands to pine forests in the foothills of the Black Range (Gila Mountains).

Lisa Lubin

Lisa Lubin is an established travel/food writer, three-time Emmy®-award winning TV producer, and travel industry expert. After a decade in broadcast television she took a sabbatical, which turned into three years traveling around the world. She documents her adventures on her blog, LLworldtour.com. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.